In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the tragedy of the story comes from the ramifications of a man’s actions when he decides to play God – with Science! It’s a cautionary tale steeped in gothic horror, but the perceived monster of Frankenstein is actually the story’s greatest victim. Victor Frankenstein’s monster was a means to an end, something for Victor to use as proof that he could master Nature. The result is a creature with the intelligence and wherewithal to know he’s an abomination, that people will only believe what they see on the surface. But even the creature questions his own existence. Is he the monster people believe him to be or is the line between man and monster harder to define? In the conclusion of Steve Niles and Damien Worm’s Monster & Madman the answers are there but there’s a price to be paid.
After making a deal with the “kindly” Dr. Moore to help unlock the mystery behind his creation in exchange for a bride, the creature spends several months hidden away, subjected to tests, while Moore ventures out most nights to fulfill his atrocious crimes as Jack the Ripper. The creature spends his time reading about the murders in White Chapel, but doesn’t think to put the two together. It’s easy to see why. Firstly, the creature is entirely focused on having a bride. His immortality, his very existence, is a curse, a burden he doesn’t want to bear alone. Having already lost a bride to his former creator, Moore’s offering of a new one is enough to keep him focused elsewhere. Secondly, Moore doesn’t present himself as the monstrous murderer of White Chapel. He is, for all intents and purposes, an old doctor who took the creature in, kept him safe, and only asks to understand the machinations of the creature’s existence. It isn’t until his bride is completed that the creature sees through the facade and draws his own conclusions about the reality of monsters and men.
The pairing of Frankenstein’s monster and Jack the Ripper might have seemed like an odd one on the surface, but the characters are perfectly suited for each other with respect to the story being told by Niles and Worm. While we’re never truly given a reason for Jack’s interest in recreating Frankenstein’s experiment, his involvement in the story is more about the parallels between Jack and Victor as seen through the eyes of the creature. Though hardly innocent himself, the creature is still a tool. In the one instance, he’s the result of Victor’s hubris, in the other he became the means by which Jack could exert his own mastery over life and death via the women he butchered. Instead of finding peace he continues to see the horror that underlies mankind’s nature.
Monster & Madman is a beautiful rumination on what makes a man and what makes a monster. In just three issues Steve Niles manages to keep those thoughts present throughout the narrative without hitting you over the head with the message. It’s a terse mini comic, relying more on the art to tell the story at times and Damien Worm’s work is the type that sticks in your brain long after you’ve put the book down. His creature is as mangled and horrifying as he is sympathetic. We feel his pain and longing because Worm makes sure everything from the composition of the page to the color palette reflects his mood. And those final pages just hit you where you live. The collaboration between Niles and Worm on this piece has me chomping at the bit for their next project, October Faction.
Rating – 10/10
Final Thoughts: I, Frankenstein could’ve learned a thing or two from this comic. All I’m sayin’.